I spent the last year trying to balance being both a step-mom and a stage manager, having a family and having a theatre group to be a part of… well, that group decided to fold, so I no longer require that balance. And I find myself dreading not having an outlet, not having my own thing, not really making my own friends… the theatre holds the key to my identity, my self-image, in many ways my self-esteem, my passion, my circle of friends… I feel sad. At times I felt like a bad parent for putting all of that first. At times I felt like it made me a better parent because I felt better about myself, more like myself. It is the thing that makes me who I am. And I also feel sad that being their step-mom doesn’t make me who I am. It’s shaped me in ways I don’t think I’ll ever fully realize or understand… but the theatre… the theatre is a part of me as much as I am a part of it. I’ll find a new place to land. Until then, I will take a well-earned break and hope for good things.
A bit of a personal post instead of being about the kids… a good friend of mine ended up in a similar situation to where I am – her boyfriend has kids and some ex baggage but, instead of more kids being the issue, it is buying a house together (instead of her paying him rent) and getting married that was tearing them apart. She was ready to walk away and he was ready to let her. And my heart broke for her because I understand the feeling of having to be able to fight for the things you need in this world and I admired her courage for being willing to sacrifice everything to get there. I was also grateful that Curtis is willing to admit to and to try and work on his issues. And then a funny thing happened, faced with the thought of losing her… he changed his mind and they are going to look for a house to buy together and build their life together. Just like that… and I thought to myself… Yes, Curtis is trying to work on things (for which I am eternally grateful), but when I was ready to walk away and he was ready to let me… Losing me wasn’t enough to change his mind. And, on the other hand, she also gives me hope that my happy ending isn’t totally lost. It could still happen for me, too. He is working on his ex baggage. Sometimes the good ones will step up and make the right choice.
Well, the kids have gone to their mom’s for the rest of the break. It’s funny, we had them for 8 days and it definitely feels too short, like we wasted it somehow. I know I didn’t appreciate it and the house feels empty now that they’re gone. And it was stressful at times, Curtis and I didn’t have any real time together at all and our relationship is hurting because of that. We need to find better balance for ourselves. All I hope is that the kids had fun. And even that they have fun on whatever expensive adventure their mom is taking them on. It’s not a competition. We had a fun week of hockey, a birthday party, baking, crafts, experiments, swimming, skating, and play dates. It was a little stressful that we both had to take time off because my mother-in-law hurt her back, but better in the long run because the kids had some real, fun, quality time with Curtis. And that’s worth everything. We rolled with everything, including a flat tire, where Taitum and I made funny faces and listened to music.
After the kids left, we went to see the lawyer. We found out we have very little legal recourse to make her take them to their sports and that the amount Curtis has to pay her will end up increasing significantly when she goes on mat leave (with the baby she’s having with the man she left him for… life is cruel). I think Curtis left discouraged by the meeting. It is what I expected. This ongoing battle will continue. We have 5 days to think about it before the kids come home and hopefully we’ll find some clarity on how to move forward.
I haven’t posted much lately. I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy when being a step-mom is such a great thing. Things with his ex are increasingly difficult and I don’t want this to be a daily rant on how I think his ex is a horrible person. That’s as unproductive as it is boring to read.
I had an interesting weekend, which, unfortunately, ended with me losing my patience with the kids. Our hockey weekend was pretty normal, 4 games and 2 practices. Taitum didn’t end up playing hockey because he was still sick. That was a tough choice because he REEEEEEALLLLLYY wanted to play. Curtis eventually had to tell him he got the week off because of his tournament because he was determined to play. (So much for the theory that they don’t like hockey). We all went to watch Nolan’s early-morning game and the ex’s sister was at the arena. She started talking to Reegan and said that her son was supposed to play Nolan’s team last week but Nolan wasn’t there. Reegan looked at her and said, ‘oh yeah, because we were with our mom’. This is her sister. I couldn’t hide the look on my face, so I’m glad she didn’t look at me. I wonder what she thought of that. We signed the kids up for summer sports and for hockey next year and I toed the company line. I never lied, but I expressed that we hope they’ll be able to play more than half the time and I also hope they’ll get the opportunity to play travel (which will be limited if they can’t make it every other week). I hope at least one person sees the truth of what is going on. And I hope that we can make it work so the kids can go.
Sunday Curtis was sick with the same illness that took down the kids. Really sick. Couldn’t get out of bed sick. I just want to express my appreciation for single parents, and for how well Curtis handled everything when I was out entire days for the show. I took all 3 kids to Reegan’s practice to give Curtis some peace and quiet. Now, I think I caused some of my own problems by telling them they could have a treat at the arena, but it got them in the car and us to the arena early. We were the first ones ready to go out on the ice and they were mostly pretty good while we were there. It all went downhill when Nolan bought chips and they had sharing issues. Then we went to get gravol for Curtis and they all wanted junk. When we got home, they all jumped out of the car, leaving all the hockey gear and such in the car, and it was the last straw, I lost my patience with them. I think it all ended up ok. I didn’t lose my mind on them or anything, but Curtis (in his sick state) was a little like ‘whoa… what just happened here’. He even managed to drag his sick butt upstairs and take the reins during bath time when they all climbed in the bathtub and it ended in tears. I appreciated his firm hand there.
You know… I got it all done. Laundry, dinner, lunches, hockey practice. I was completely wiped, but I got it all done. I realized, though, that I take for granted how hands-on Curtis is and how much he is able to handle on his own. Nothing but respect for all those single parents out there. I’ve glibly said that I would be able to do it, and I probably would if I had to, but I don’t know that I would fare so well with 3 kids as a single parent. I’m still exhausted today. It was an eye-opening weekend. I’m very grateful that Curtis is such a great, hands-on dad… and I will learn not to take single-parenting so lightly.
What do you do, as a step-parent, when your step-kids real parent is a bad parent? Ok, so that’s unfair… I can’t say that Kim is entirely a bad parent. She’s not a negligent parent. She clearly cares about the kids, even when they’re not with her. She made all 3 kids valentines when they were with us, (hopefully) so she could spend time with them when they were with her. I also suspect it’s so she can look like the better parent, but there’s no law against that. It wouldn’t be our choice, we would have done them with the kids, but it’s still not bad parenting. The reason I say that she is a bad parent is because she punishes the kids to hurt Curtis.
Kim won’t take the kids to ‘our sports’ on ‘her days’. I understand that’s a bit of a grey area, legally. Her time is her time and she shouldn’t be required to take the kids to things that we sign them up for. The things is … the kids WANT to play and ask her if they can play and she says no. Similarly, she signs them up for ‘her sports’ and says that we are not allowed to take them on ‘our days’, even if the kids want to play and we are willing to take them. She will also not allow us to watch them play ‘her sports’ on ‘her time’. That issue is still outstanding on their custody agreement and has to go back to court. She had said that the kids playing sports was entirely dependent on how well she and Curtis got along. He took that to heart and naively believed they were making headway. (I never believed it).
So, here’s the latest… Today, she found out that Curtis called Taitum’s dentist to confirm some things about his appointment and the charges, insurance, etc. It’s sad that we had to put in their agreement that he has the right to contact any doctors, teachers, etc., but we put it in there so there would be no question as to his rights as an equal parent. Still, when she found out, she has said that he is no longer ‘allowed’ to take Nolan to basketball at the school on ‘our time’ because it is ‘her sport’. She also said summer sports are a no go. All because he called the dentist to ask a question. Curtis has to call their family doctor every few weeks to find out what appointments he didn’t know about. I can only imagine how bad it would be if she knew that.
She seems to need to have all the power, all the control, and to look like the sole parent. She went so far as to lie to get government-funded insurance so she could control that, too. (We have her application, this is not speculation). The moment she feels any perceived power struggle, she lashes out in the only way she knows to get to Curtis, and that’s to use the kids. I could go on and on about the things the kids tell Curtis’ mom about her saying and the things they’re told to keep secret from us and the lies she tells them and other people.
How is this ok? How does the system allow this to happen? What can I do, as a step-parent, to help him and the kids through this? It causes strain on our family, it affects our mental well-being (I know my anxiety is through the roof right now and Curtis has to deal with way more than I can even fathom.) And, forgetting about us… let her do her worst to us… how do we get the kids out of the line of fire. I am so afraid of the long-term damage being caused here. How do we stop her from hurting them to hurt us? Is there anything I can do, is there anything we can do to help this? It looks like we’re headed back to court, but we can’t make her follow the agreement we have now, so how will that even help? What can we do… ?
Curtis gives me a hard time for the fact that I call Brampton home. Like “I’m going home to see my friends”. Today I had the realization that it’s really not home anymore. I’ve gone to the wrong place twice when my friend Jenn has invited me somewhere so I knew I was out of touch, but I didn’t realize how much Brampton had changed. Since I haven’t been here, I did not change with it. Brampton isn’t home any more.
This was the sign up in my doctor’s office today. You know you live in a small town when this shocks you.
What the what?? So if I’m not from here, where am I from? Mitchell is where I live but I have only a few friends there. It’s getting better, but how long will I even live there if things continue as they are? London isn’t home… I feel lost. Without roots. Again.
I’m sitting in one of my favourite childhood spots, reading a book on how to help my relationship with Curtis and crying. Crying for the girl who sat here and the choices she made. Fighting an anxiety attack. My ex-husband first gave me flowers at the library over there and we all know how that went. What happened to the girl from here?
I put my head in my hands and I feel my hat, Reegan’s ‘A Champs’ hat from his tournament and I smile for a moment. Reegan and I have a special bond. I love all 3 boys but Reegan is the one who really seems to want the time with me. He’s a special little guy, the one who reminds me most of why I love Curtis so much. They’re all like him, but Reegan has that same spirit that I love.
I know I have a lot of choices to make, and soon, and, although there’s progress, I’m scared. I’m so scared of making a bad choice and messing it all up (so much so I’m afraid the fear will make me mess it up, anyway). One thing is for sure, I will never be the girl who sat on this rock when I was mad at my parents, reading and listening to the Beatles. I long for her problems. I long for the ability to hide from them for a little while. But I wouldn’t trade a moment with my little family to go back.
I have no use for Valentine’s Day. They jack the prices up on stuff for a ridiculous holiday made up by advertisers to help people assuage some kind of obligation or guilt. Ugh. Curtis and I went for a very nice date (because I think he can’t get past the obligation), but we didn’t do anything fancy or overpriced. It was a nice date. I wouldn’t dream of turning down a date with my man. And, to his eternal credit, he did manage to make my Valentine’s Day. He got the kids to make me lovely cards and he had picked up some of my favourite chocolates to support a coworker’s kid and save them so each of them could give me one. Reegan’s card almost made me cry. I love these kids.
We didn’t do anything for them for Valentine’s Day, we didn’t even do anything for their classes. We had every intention of doing it, we even asked the kids about what they wanted to do so I could collect all the pieces and we could do it together… and Reegan vehemently insisted he didn’t want to do them and Nolan said that their mom had already done all of them for each of them so we didn’t need to (explaining Reegan’s reaction). So… we didn’t. And part of me was sad. I’m sure hers were lovely, but she did it when we had the kids so the kids had no part of it. I was also looking forward to doing that with them. There was also something liberating about just not doing them. We weren’t fighting with her for the recognition or the shared experience… whatever it is we fight for (sometimes it’s hard to tell). If the kids had still wanted to do them, done, that’s worth fighting for, but I think we chose our battle this time. With all the other junk she is currently pulling each and every day… I kind of feel like one less fight is a win. Not a bad Valentine’s Day at all.
I am struggling with step-motherhood today and I’m not sure why… nothing in particular was said or done, I had a good night with the kids… it’s just a feeling of helplessness in my situation. The one where Curtis is a man who does not want to have a child with me. I will have to choose whether to be ok with being a step-mother to those boys I love, or being a mother on my own, something I want so desperately. At what point do I have a responsibility to those boys to put them first? At what point am I a parent who makes decisions with their best interests in mind? Is it in their best interest to give up my dream of motherhood for the sake of our family? I don’t feel responsible to Curtis, he knew where I stood going in and it’s his mind that has changed. Ugh. I really need Curtis to get back on board the kid train. I know what I have to do. I just don’t know how long I should give him to realize how this family is worth saving. Or for me to realize that.
I find that I just have walls up against everyone right now as I retreat into myself. I see familiar behaviour that should act as a warning sign that I’m going to do something dumb as a result of the frustration I’m feeling. Not sure what yet, but I’m on the lookout for destructive behaviours. (More in the picking fights realm than, say, getting into serious trouble). I found this on Facebook… I’m looking at it for inspiration today. Today is one of the hard days. I don’t feel like a fearless warrior, but I want to.
It was an interesting weekend, full of ups and downs. First, it was my first show weekend as a step-parent and I’m not sure I nailed it. I stayed out late on Friday night with the director, Tina, and then I missed Nolan’s game in the morning. And he asked why I wasn’t there. Parent fail. I feel pretty crummy about it. Curtis was clearly upset with me, and so he should have been. I didn’t go because I was exhausted, and that was my own fault. I’ve never tried to balance both before, my show weekends have always been about me, about the show, and I need to do better. The show itself was excellent. The kids came on Saturday night and, for the most part, really liked it. Taitum fell asleep, but Nolan and Reegan liked it. I took Reegan up to the booth after and let Nolan and Reegan go on stage to check things out, which they seemed to enjoy. His sister and her husband were also down for the weekend and enjoyed it. And it was great because I was out for most of the weekend so I couldn’t get stressed by having houseguests. Cathy told me this morning that the kids talk about me “all of the time” to their mom. I guess they told Cathy that they told Kim they were going to see my show and her response was ‘don’t talk about her’. That was interesting for me. Kind of threw me off, really. I know they talk about her a little, but I didn’t really think about them talking about me. Or that she would say that. Or maybe that sounds exactly right.
Nolan and Reegan sword-fighting backstage
I do think having kids and learning to change my approach has made me a better SM. I only had one person tell me that I was mean, and more may have thought it, but mostly I got really nice compliments. And I have the kids to thank for that.
Me in the booth
After the craziness of the show weekend, we also had a house full of people for the superbowl party, lots of food, lots of kids running around. I think everyone had a good time. It looked like the kids did, which is the only thing we want. I’ve definitely lost them for good as Steelers fans as Curtis’ Patriots won again. That’s all I will say about that, lol. Yuck. An interesting conversation came up at the party, we invited neighbours we don’t know that well, who also know Kim’s sister. She asked specifically about how we handle the kids not being there, do we go to all their games, or whatnot? I answered her honestly, without saying anything bad about Kim, that Kim doesn’t take them so they only play half the time. She said if it was her, she would be showing up at her ex’s house demanding that they would go, I said that Kim would call the cops if we did that. (True story, she’s threatened before). I also told her that Curtis went to court for that and got nowhere. All of those felt like calculated questions, although not presented like that at all so maybe I’m wrong. It’ll be interesting to see what the small town gossip train makes of that if she did ask on purpose.
Speaking of Kim, the lock broke on our front door (while Curtis was on call, I was at the show, and we had a house full of people… eep!). Our neighbour picked up a new one for us and it’s one of those key code locks. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I feel like that’s an invitation for Kim to get in my house. I’m sure she can get the kids to tell her the code and I worry about that… a lot. I’m not sure if it’s some kind of anxious paranoia, or if she’s really capable of that. Our dog is the worst guard dog ever and would love to let her in to our house. If we ever go away, I wonder if we could change the code… the whole thing makes me uncomfortable. But… it will be better for the kids, so here we go…
The new lock led to a conversation about money, of course. We’re struggling right now and Curtis wants to move to a smaller house. In theory, I support that, but I can’t move until everything is settled about us and where we’re going. I need to know we’re on the same page about kids and marriage (because now, apparently, he doesn’t think we need to get married), and that we’re moving towards that. I can’t move, only to move again and break up the family. I think I’ll have an answer soon, although not as soon as I would like. It was a good conversation, and I think will give him some motivation to make a decision – once his therapist comes back from her month off. I went in thinking I was in the same place, but I feel a tiny glimmer like maybe things are a little better. He asked me if he had said “No” to kids, to which I replied, “Yes”. So he clarified that he had not said no since he started therapy and that maybe I wasn’t in exactly the same place as before.
The money thing is a problem. I have a bonus coming and there are a million things I could spend it on and I really want to go to NYC with my friends. I should spend it all on debt payment, but I want to get away, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to go with my friends in case this doesn’t work out and I end up even angrier at him for missing out on things. I know I hurt his feelings when I said that because he wanted us to go away together, so I feel like a giant jerk for that, and now he won’t take any of the money for bills because it’s “my money”. I’m exhausted today. It was a long weekend.
In the words of the great Gomez Addams, let’s be happy, completely happy, and a tiny bit sad.
The Addams Family Cast
It’s been an interesting week this week.
For the first time, I bailed on helping out. I’m not always home to help but, if I’m home, I make a point of making sure I go and help with lunches and laundry and all that after the kids fall asleep. It’s important to me to be a part of that, to not make Curtis do it by himself. But this time… we divided and conquered, he took Nolan to basketball and I stayed home and made forts and put together Lego with Reegan and Taitum. Then I read to Reegan and he fell asleep with Nolan. Normally, it’s Curtis who falls asleep and I end up doing it on my own. I won’t fight with him to get up and help. Last night, I was so tired and the weather gave me such a headache, I told him I was coming, but didn’t follow. At some point I woke up in Reegan’s bed (where I had been scratching his back) and I moved to my bed (still in my clothes). When Curtis woke me up to ask if I wanted to get in my pjs, I actually thought I was still in Reegan’s bed. When I realized where I was, no jammies for me, I just wanted to sleep. This winter has been tough on me with all the up and down and everything that’s going on. There’s part of me that is really looking forward to having more time to do things. I’m ready to not go go go for a little while. Curtis does it on his own a lot and I am looking forward to getting back to normal.
Then we had our usual Kim struggles… not telling us about appointment changes, and the school not calling us because she is the first contact. We went back to court last year because the school said they couldn’t call Curtis without a court order saying that they have 50/50 custody and that he has to be called. So we got that. And they still don’t call. They treat him like a deadbeat dad when he is sometimes more involved than she is. She worries only about appearances and not in the little things that we work so hard to do every day.
He tried to talk about sports again but she is “sooooo busy”, she won’t even agree to sit and talk to him. He said that he doesn’t care what they play as long as they get to go all the time, but we all know it won’t change and they will only get to play on our days and we won’t be allowed to watch the kids play “her sport” on “her days”.
The only funny thing is he feels like this new dentist got the heads up about her behaviour because they actually wanted his information. She did the usual thing of only being free on her days (which, of course, doesn’t matter if Curtis isn’t available, she’ll do it anyway). He said he got the vibe like this dentist was warned about how she is and not to leave the dad out. Maybe not, but it’s a nice thought, not being left out simply because he’s the dad.
And, by the way, we did end up going out for our anniversary – his idea. So it’s all a little better in our world. Even if just small victories.